Trump’s bid for re-election and the future of U.S. elections
After losing the presidential race in 2020, former President Donald Trump announced that he will run for president again. He made it official a few weeks ago, and I’m feeling a sense of deja vu from 2016, when people denied even the possibility that Trump could ever win in America.
Trump announced his re-election bid Nov. 15 at his club in Palm Beach, Florida. “America’s comeback starts now,” Trump said in his speech. However, during the midterm elections the week prior, a return of Trump-like politics got shot down across the country.
On average, the sitting president’s party loses 28 House seats and four Senate seats in the midterm election. However in this midterm, according to Politico, the “red wave” did not happen, and the night was a huge disappointment to Republicans. Republicans ended up gaining just a small majority in the House and remaining the minority in the Senate.
This was even more of a disappointment to Trump, as the candidates he backed throughout the election season did poorly. According to NPR, of the 64 races that were deemed most competitive by the Cook Political Report, Trump endorsed candidates in 21 of them. Only seven of those candidates ended up winning. Trump also backed nine candidates in the 36 “toss-up” races, with only one winning.
According to Time Magazine, some Republicans blame Trump for their poor showing in the midterm elections.
Despite what was seen as a failed election for Republicans, Trump still announced his third campaign for the presidency just a week after the midterm elections. This caused dismay among Republican leaders and politicians, many of whom hopped off the Trump train after his loss in 2020.
Even Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, said she will not participate politically in her father’s campaign. In both the 2016 and 2020 election, Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner took top positions in the campaign.
Republican lawmakers are also choosing not to back Trump as strongly as they have in the past, and several interviewed by Time – including Richard Burr of North Carolina and Chuck Grassley of Iowa – avoided the question altogether.
Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe – who was re-elected in 2020 with Trump’s nomination – initially avoided the questions but then told Time he would “support whoever the 2024 nominee is.”
While some Republicans have been wishy-washy on Trump’s decision to run for the third time, others have taken a hard stance against it including Maryland’s outgoing Republican governor, Larry Hogan. Even some non-politician GOP backers – such as GOP mega-donor and hedge-fund founder Ken Griffin – do not support Trump. Griffin called Trump a “three-time loser” at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.
However, Time also conducted interviews with Republican politicians who were fully supportive of Trump’s bid. Representative Elise Stefanik of New York is the highest ranked Republican to publicly announce her support for Trump in 2024. “It is time for Republicans to unite around the most popular Republican in America, who has a proven track record of conservative governance,” Stefanik said in a statement.
The lack of support from Trump’s own party gives a sense of comfort for those who are concerned about another four years of Trump in the White House. However, we should still be worried.
Let’s go back to 2016. In the Republican primary, there were several candidates that had more political experience than Trump. John Kasich – the former governor of Ohio – had far more political experience than Trump and was endorsed by high profile, establishment Republicans from across the country, according to Ballotpedia.
According to NBC, even after Trump won the Republican primaries, high profile Republicans called for Trump to drop out. The late Arizona Senator John McCain and 2008 Republican presidential candidate even refused to vote for Trump in the 2016 election.
But Trump still won.
Now, six years later, times have changed. We lived through a Trump presidency and we saw how it polarized our country. Despite witnessing his presidency first hand, Trump could still be re-elected for the presidency.
No day captured Trump’s disregard for democracy and American tradition quite like January 6, 2021. Prior to the riots, Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell.” Rioters later stormed the Capitol, threatening the safety of politicians, interns and anyone else near the grounds. The rioters tried to prevent congress members from doing their jobs and solidify the 2020 presidential election results. This led to Trump being banned from Twitter for his comments denouncing the election results and the inauguration.
According to the Washington Post, there is a possibility that Trump will be sued for his actions that day. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court in D.C. concluded that Trump may have crossed the line between “protected speechmaking and actionable incitement.”
This came after months of election denial from Trump, who said he would not accept the results of the election if he lost even before election day. Trump supporters followed the former president’s lead, and refused to accept the results of the election, leading to the riots on January 6 and mass mistrust of the American election system.
This type of election denial goes beyond just a random Wednesday in January 2021. It goes beyond just Trump and Biden, and as we’ve seen in 2022, it goes beyond just the 2020 election.
Though our democracy is nowhere near perfect – voter suppression still runs rampant across the country – election denial, especially from someone as influential as Trump, threatens the progress toward more fair elections that the U.S. has made.
How can we consider our elections fair and impartial if someone can stand up and say they were rigged – with no evidence – and still be able to run again just four years later?
Even if Trump doesn’t get re-elected, and even if he doesn’t win the Republican nomination, his ability to run again while being under investigation and causing so much mistrust in the integrity of American elections should be concerning enough.
Though Trump-backed election deniers lost for the most part in midterm elections, the fact that it was so close and they were considered legitimate candidates threatens the integrity of American elections and therefore, threatens American democracy.
We have to go vote. It was made clear in the midterm elections that people in Generation Z have the power to sway an election away from those seeking to threaten democracy.
Header illustration by Madeline Smith